Washington STAR and WASHI Soil Health Initiative

STAR launched in Washington in 2023 as part of the ongoing work of the Washington Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI). WaSHI, a tri-agency partnership between the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the State Conservation Commission, and Washington State University, promotes soil health through research, technical support, outreach and education, incentives, and policy support. Core WaSHI projects include a statewide soil sampling effort called the State of the Soils Assessment; a network of long-term agroecological research and extension sites; a grant program called Sustainable Farms and Fields that funds the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gases and increased carbon sequestration; and SoilCon, an annual multi-day event that brings together researchers, producers, and stakeholders to discuss soil health practices and innovations. These projects were informed by the findings of an initial statewide needs assessment, published as the Soil Health Roadmap. As part of this needs assessment, growers also asked WaSHI to help generate market-based, economic value for their conservation practices. WaSHI sought out STAR in direct response to those requests. STAR was chosen for its scientific credibility, its consistent scale for evaluating progress across regions and systems, and its potential to unite soil health champions in Washington with those across the country. Washington STAR will open for grower enrollment at WSDA in Summer 2024.


Dani Gelardi

Senior Soil Scientist and Climate Coordinator

Dani Gelardi is the Senior Soil Scientist and Climate Coordinator at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where she leads soil and climate efforts for the agency including the Washington Soil Health Initiative. She is also Adjunct Faculty at Washington State University in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Dani received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Soils & Biogeochemistry from the University of California, Davis, as a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) Fellow, and her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research program encompasses soil health measurements, biochar, conservation practice adoption, and carbon accounting in agricultural lands.

Lauren Quackenbush

Soil Health Economic Development Coordinator

Lauren joined the WSDA in September of 2023 with fifteen years of experience in soils and agriculture, and a lifetime of growing up in a ranching and rodeo family. Lauren holds a soil science degree from Cal Poly Humboldt, is a Certified Professional Soil Scientist (CPSS), and a licensed agricultural Pest Control Advisor (PCA). In California, Lauren operated her own flower and vegetable farm. She also worked at an agricultural consulting company providing soils and integrated pest management (IPM) expertise to clients. Most recently, Lauren worked in the Napa and Sonoma wine industry, as an Operations Manager for a vineyard management company, and a Grower Representative for a large winery collection. In this role Lauren connected growers with buyers and advocated for better pricing and contract terms on their behalf. As the STAR administrator in Washington, Lauren looks forward to leveraging her experience and expertise to foster connections between farmers, ranchers, and industry groups. She’s excited to develop accessible new sources of financial and professional support for Washington producers.